In his prepared remarks to the Subcommittee, Under Sec. Scuse noted that, “The President’s Budget includes a proposal to consolidate 250 field offices. However, there are steps that need to be taken to reshape and restructure our county offices and workforce before we can begin actively planning any office consolidation plan. So far, the agency has not identified any specific offices for closure and implementation of these changes will carry over beyond FY 2015. FSA is proposing to reduce non-federal staff by 815 FTEs, saving $61.6 million, and realigning approximately 300 federal headquarters and state office oversight staff to the county offices, saving $6.8 million.
“To promote increased efficiency, the IT request includes base funding to continue contract services that support modernization, development and maintenance of applications systems, and deployment support (e.g. data and database administration, testing and certification, and security). These funds will enable FSA to maintain essential program delivery and operations in the field, as well as provide support for improvements. This funding includes 65.0 million for MIDAS.”
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.) indicated that, “We will explore two of the more controversial proposals from the Farm Service Agency that call for a reduction of 815 non-federal permanent full time staff years and the closure of 250 county offices. While all of us on the Subcommittee are proponents of efficiencies, many of us here are not convinced that FSA has fully developed these plans and the savings associated with the proposals.”
Chairman Aderholt inquired about proposed technological advancements at yesterday’s hearing. He noted that proposed efficiencies from fewer FSA offices are contingent on successful implementation of necessary technological variables that are used in the field offices, including the FSA “MIDAS” software. To listen to a portion of a discussion on this issue, including remarks about MIDAS between Chairman Aderholt and Under Sec. Scuse, just click here (MP3- 1:43).
At an April 8 Senate Agriculture hearing, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and Richard Childress, former NASCAR driver, testify of the importance of increased blender pumps to provide consumers with greater choice at the pump.
Today Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) participated in a Senate Ag Committee hearing where she reinforced the importance of biofuels toward building a strong all-of-the-above energy strategy, and highlighted the need for policies that support biofuels.
In response to questions from Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman explains how uncertain tax policy creates greater risk for agriculture producers. From today’s Ways and Means Committee hearing on the benefits of permanent tax policy.
A news release yesterday from USDA indicated that, “The [USDA] announced today that farmers and ranchers can sign-up for disaster assistance programs, reestablished and strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill, beginning Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Quick implementation of the programs has been a top priority for USDA.”
And Daniel Looker reported yesterday at Agriculture.com that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of North American Agricultural Journalists in Washington, DC, Monday that farmers should be able to begin comparing the farm bill’s new commodity programs this summer ‘so that producers will have a good three or four months to analyze and assess these programs to make the best possible decision for their particular operation.’
“Vilsack told Agriculture.com that he expects that farmers will be able to sign up for programs before the end of this calendar year.
“Vilsack said that online decision-making tools and materials for Extension educators should be available in a month or two.”
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FarmPolicy.com is a FREE daily summary of news relating to U.S. farm policy. Updates highlight news items dealing with the U.S. and global agricultural economy, including the Farm Bill, production agriculture, trade, biofuels and crop insurance.
Ron Hays, of The Oklahoma Farm Report and Radio Oklahoma Network, spoke on Saturday with House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) about the Farm Bill and farm policy variables at an agriculture town hall during the Oklahoma City Farm Show.
An audio replay and summary of the Chairman’s remarks from Saturday can be found here , while an unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of a portion of Saturday’s conversation with Ron Hays and Chairman Lucas is available here.
Chairman Lucas walked the crowd through a brief overview of the development of the 2014 Farm Bill including some of the political realities that contributed to “a two and a half year process of passing a Farm Bill” that “should have taken six months.”
From the Iowa Press, April 4- “USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is the guest on this edition of Iowa Press. He discusses the latest concerns in rural America as well as political issues surrounding the 2014 elections.
“Joining Vilsack at the Iowa Press table are moderator Dean Borg; Kay Henderson, news director for Radio Iowa; and James Lynch, political writer for The Gazette.”
A video replay of the program is available below, and a transcript can be found here.
From The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Online, April 4- “Cargill executive chairman Gregory Page discusses the impact of global warming on the nation’s food supply, rising food prices and the battle over labeling genetically modified foods. He spoke with WSJ’s Sara Murray at the ECO:nomics conference.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor indicated this week that drought conditions persist in California and are worsening in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Bloomberg news reported today that the drought conditions coupled with freezing temperatures earlier in the year have been a “double-whammy” for wheat producers. The adverse weather conditions have contributed to rising prices for consumers.
Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) questions U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman about what the Administration is doing to address non-tariff trade barriers in China, Japan, Canada, and in future trade agreements. This exchange took place today at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on trade.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its monthly Food Price Index today. The index was up for the second month in a row. FAO Economist Michael Griffin explains some of the details of today’s report.
Farm broadcaster Don Wick, of the Red River Farm Network, interviewed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack yesterday where the discussion focused on the Farm Bill. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of yesterday’s interview is available here, while an audio replay can be heard here.
Mr. Wick asked Sec. Vilack about recent Farm Bill stakeholder meetings and what was gleaned from the discussions. Sec. Vilsack noted that, “I think what we learned was, number one, people are anxious to get this implemented, and number two, that we have correctly identified the first thing that needs to get done, which is disaster assistance for our livestock producers, and number three, that producers are very anxious to get information about the other choices that they’re going to have to make in terms of crop insurance coverages and in terms of the safety net programs, which is why our focus, after we get the livestock disaster assistance programs up and going on or before April 15th so people can make application for the resources they need for losses they incurred in 2011, ’12 and ’13, we’re going to focus our attention on getting the informational materials out to folks across the country so that they can begin familiarizing themselves with the programs and begin making informed decisions about what they need to do.”
Teresa Watanabe reported on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times that, “It’s lunchtime at Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, but 16-year-old Parrish Jackson has barely touched her turkey burger and apricots.
“She’s dumping them into the trash can.”
The article added that, “And so it goes on hundreds of campuses in Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system, which serves 650,000 meals a day. Students throw out at least $100,000 worth of food a day — and probably far more, according to estimates by David Binkle, the district’s food services director. That amounts to $18 million a year — based on a conservative estimate of 10% food waste — which Binkle says would be far better spent on higher-quality items, such as strawberries or watermelon.”
Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduced a budget proposal Tuesday that would cut more than $5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, primarily by effectively repealing President Obama’s signature health-care law and greatly reducing funding for social programs.”
The Post article noted that, “Congress approved a bipartisan two-year budget agreement late last year, but Ryan said he drafted a separate proposal because the current plan ‘is nowhere near what we need’ to cut spending.”
Mr. O’Keefe added that, “But any fighting between Democrats and Republicans on spending will not result in the deadline-driven fiscal crises of recent years. Although the GOP-controlled House is expected to debate and pass Ryan’s plan, it will serve only as a political show vote because Democrats, who control the Senate, do not plan to propose or vote on a budget plan.”